For several years now, the buzz words and trend in the fitness industry has been Calorie Deficit. All hyped-up trends tend to base their credibility more on their viral nature than any clinical substance, and that applies to the Calorie Deficit hype. That’s not to say that Calorie Deficit cannot result in weight loss. The problem with this hyped-up trend is the reality that weight and fat loss are not as simple as this concept makes it out to be.
Not to mention, there are several significant consequences and concerns that, near-universally, are being either ignored or simply going unacknowledged. While weight issues and fat loss are concerns shared by millions of people, it is very important to understand that there isn’t a universal fix regardless of how elementary Calorie Deficit makes the solution sound.
The Calorie Deficit hype
The primary reason Calorie Deficit has become a viral trend is because it sounds like it makes sense. In its simplest terms, Calorie Deficit is the concept that if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. The problem with this concept is that, while it sounds logical, it is very short on facts.
I am willing to bet, everyone knows someone who does nothing all day but sits around, plays video games or something, and eats nothing but junk food. And, that person never gains a pound! Why doesn’t that person weigh a ton? Or, how about hot water will always boil faster than cold water. Sounds logical. Or, that the desert nation of Saudi Arabia imports camels from Down Under. Sounds ridiculous right. Well, hot water does not always come to a boil quicker than cold water and Saudi Arabia does in fact import camels from Australia.
The problem with sounding logical is that alone doesn’t make it valid. Likewise, just because something sounds counterintuitive does not necessarily mean it’s false.
The single most elemental and significant biological factor which directly connects to weight loss and gain is the fact that no two people are the same. Each of us is unique. Thus, for a plethora of reasons, Calorie Deficit, in its simplistic application, is not a universal solution, and in fact, could potentially be harmful.
Needless to say, you should NEVER give any weight to what the so-called ‘influencers’ or aspiring ‘influencers’ are posting on social media when your health and well-being are involved. They are only concerned about making their pockets healthy by copying what seems to be making other ‘influencers’ rich. They are all as misinformed about your situation as you are.
The concept of Calorie Deficit can produce some benefits for some people. However, it has the potential to create or lead to some significant negative issues and concerns as well. As with anything that involves your health and well-being, do not look to ‘influencers’ for advice. Always consult your doctor or medical professional.
Understanding Deficit & Loss
While caloric intake does affect weight gain and or loss, there is a myriad of additional factors that play into it as well. Metabolism, for one, is a factor that directly contributes to the number of calories your body burns. An individual’s Basic Metabolic Rate, or BMR, is responsible for burning more than two-thirds of what your body needs simply to function daily. Having a fast or slow metabolism does not necessarily result in being skinny or fat. The point is, your BMR requires essentially the same number of calories to do its daily business and altering the number of available calories could potentially impact your overall health negatively.
Remember, food is fuel; the fuel of life itself. According to leading clinical, scientific, and medical organizations, such as the UK’s National Health Service or the USA’s Center for Disease Control, the recommended daily intake is 2500 calories (men) and 2000 (women). While there are numerous variables involved in these numbers, such as age, lifestyle, health, etc. the universally agreed to numbers ranged between 2000 – 3000 calories a day.
Compare those numbers to the most important stat involved in the Calorie Deficit concept, intake to loss. Research published by the National Institute of Health establishes that to achieve 1 KG or 2.2 lbs. of weight loss requires a deficit of 7000 calories or Kcals.
With the ‘logic’ of the Calorie Deficit hype in its proper light, let’s look at some of the risks and concerns that blindly adjusting your diet to be in a Calorie Deficit has the potential to lead to.
Weight Loss & Fat Loss are not the same
It is critically important to genuinely understand that weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing. A person can achieve weight loss without losing any fat. Likewise, a person can achieve fat loss without it resulting in weight loss. If you check your weight every day in the gym for a month or even a week, you will see that it naturally fluctuates.
All of us carry a significant amount of water weight. In healthy adult males, ages 12+, water weight accounts for 55 – 60% of total body weight. In healthy adult females, ages 12+, the average is 45-56%. Keep in mind, these are healthy and normal levels.
That water retention can also be affected by your diet. Eating an excess of salty or sugary foods or drinks can result in increased water weight. Additionally, not increasing your water intake after you eliminate those bad fluids from your diet can be equally harmful.
If not done carefully, blindly jumping into a Calorie Deficit can result in weight loss which is being produced due to dehydration or other harmful reasons.
The single biggest issue and concern of the Calorie Deficit concept is that it irresponsibly draws a universal and conclusive line between eating and body image. The foundational tenet of Calorie Deficit is the amount you eat directly results in how you look.
This is not only a very generalized and broad conclusion to make but also extremely non-clinical and non-medical. It completely ignores every other factor which affects body weight as well as the concern which this line of thinking can negatively manifest as.
For several decades now, eating disorders have been on the rise. Specifically, in youth and for all ages during the COVID-19 pandemic. While eating disorders are a mental health issue, their origins can also lie in dangerous habits or behaviors adopted by otherwise mentally healthy individuals, such as becoming overly concerned about body image, weight loss, gaining weight, etc. Thus, it should be easy to see how Calorie Deficit can go wrong in certain situations.
It is very common for individuals, including young adults (12-17), to use their social media accounts as a fitness diary or platform, most often in the hopes of monetizing it and becoming the next multimillionaire influencer. A significant number of these aspiring influencers attempt to act as models or social media experts regarding many of the fitness industry hype trends, such as Keto and Calorie Deficit.
The problem is that unless they demonstrate improvement year after year, or even post after post, they can begin to worry that the hope of millionaire monetization will fade. As such, the potential is there to be constantly pursuing the next deficit level to continue progress to their first million. On social media, the number of followers a person has can easily be interpreted as acceptance, credibility, and your overall self-worth including financially.
Simply being a certified trainer with a social media account does not make someone a subject matter expert. That’s like thinking a high school social studies teacher should be the next Supreme Court justice. Being social media verified is not a verification or accreditation of expertise.
Social media is the digitization of the blind leading the blind.
According to numerous clinical and medical organizations, young adults (12+) are the primary population for developing and suffering from an eating disorder. One study evidenced that 13% of young adults had developed an eating disorder by the age of 20. And these studies were concluded prior to the recent wave of the Calorie Deficit hype.
It is not that the Calorie Deficit concept cannot help some people, it can. However, that does not mean it will be beneficial to absolutely everyone. Before an individual makes any changes that affect their health and overall well-being, it needs to be understood that universal fixes are more often great marketing than reality, especially when weight loss issues are concerned. If you want to try Calorie Deficit, it is simple to do. Consult your doctor or medical professional, not your social media feed.
If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, developing or possibly having developed an eating disorder, the UK’s NHS site and the MHA in the USA may be able to provide you information and assistance. For those in the EU or non-EU Europe, this site, MHE, may be able to assist in connecting you to an organization in your country.